by Len Lear

“I do have to have a dose of animals every so often. Doing this kind of work makes me very happy!’ insists Moya (a Gaelic name) Kinnealey, a Mt. Airy resident for 40 years and wild animal rescue volunteer for the last 13 years. Moya, whose face lights up when she talks about trying to save the lives of injured, sick and orphaned wild animals, has a doctorate degree in special education and educational psychology from Temple University.

The Boston native worked in early intervention for non-profit organizations, in the Philadelphia School System for learning disabled children, in private practice and as a teacher of occupational therapy courses at Temple. She retired in 2011.

 “I always loved what I was doing, so it wasn’t even like work.”

Starting in 2007 Moya, a lifelong animal lover, began volunteering at the Schuylkill Center’s wildlife clinic on Port Royal Avenue in upper Roxborough, where the staff and dozens of volunteers tried to save as many as 4,000 wild animals in any given year. In January of 2018, however, Rick Schubert, the center’s wildlife rehabilitation director, was fired.

Many volunteers left in solidarity with Schubert, and most joined him when he opened his own clinic, Philadelphia Metro Wildlife Center (PMWC), in King of Prussia in April of 2018. According to Schubert, by the end of 2018, they had treated 2,643 wild birds and other animals.

“The very last one was a garter snake we took in on New Year’s Eve,” he said. The new year’s first patient was a crow-sized pileated woodpecker that hit a window.” Schubert said every injury they treat is caused by humans. “We’re hitting them by our cars; they’re being caught by cats; they’re flying into our windows, and we’re cutting trees down. These are the things we fix; these are the things that happen where people are.”

Late last year, however, PMWC moved to a three-acre facility at 2815 Township Line Rd. in Norristown. (The Schuylkill Center wildlife clinic closed down after Schubert and the volunteers left, but it reopened in November of 2018.) PMWC, which has remained open during the entire pandemic, has the proper licenses and permits to treat and rehabilitate all species of wild animals found in the Greater Philadelphia area. (It is NOT a shelter that takes in pets.)

What are the most exotic animals Moya has seen in her 13 years as a volunteer? “An alligator and a monkey,” she said. “They were probably pets at one time.”

Some people who find injured, sick or orphaned wild animals drive long distances to take them to PMWC. About 60 percent of the animals can recover with time and skilled treatment (a high percentage for a wildlife clinic), but many are too far gone. Even the Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia municipal services and the Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT) have brought injured, sick or orphaned animals to PMWC, which has three rehabilitation experts, whereas most wildlife clinics have one. “Rick would love to service all of Southeast Pennsylvania,” said Moya, “and be the go-to place where nobody passes the buck.

“Rick is an expert at ‘imping,’ which means that if a hawk loses its feathers and can’t fly, he will take each feather and glue it back in place, and then the bird flies away. If a fox has mange, Rick puts medicine in an egg and feeds it to the sick fox, and they get better. It’s amazing!”
PMWC gets more of certain animals at different times of the year. For example, in March and April there are lots of baby squirrels; in May and June lots of birds and in July lots of goldfinches. Overall they run the gamut and have also treated rabbits, possums, deer, groundhogs, foxes, bats, skunks, raptors, frogs, reptiles, etc. “Diversity is what makes the planet healthy and strong,” said Moya.

“Rick is always teaching us. For example, we had baby bunnies, and he said we should cut a patch of grass and put it in their enclosure, not just cut grass because that could be poisonous. I have worked most with raccoons and foxes. I am in awe of how smart raccoons are. I understand them. Rick inoculates them against rabies before releasing them, and he treats them at first so we do not catch anything. When they are orphans, I have to do mothering and give them a bottle. Every time I work with them, I learn more about them and about myself. Sometimes they have to burp.”

For more information: phillywildlife.org or 267-416-9453. In addition to the Wildlife Center staying open consistently over the past three-plus months, it has incorporated a no-contact drop-off procedure in order to maintain social distancing.

Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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